Vijayanagara katar
Overall length

Sheathed 62.5 cm

Dagger 60.5 cm

Blade

46 cm

(To shoulders hilt)

Blade thickness

Ahead of langets 4.5 mm

Thickening at tip 6.5 mm

Blade width

Base 58 mm

Middle 44.5 mm

5 cm from tip 16 mm

Weight

675 grams

Materials

Wootz steel, iron, wood, velvet, copper

Origin

Vijayanagara Empire

South India

Dating

16th century

Price €5500, -

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The Vijayanagara katar

The Vijayanagara Empire originated in south India from attempts of several smaller Hindu kingdoms to resist the Muslim invasion from the north. Founded in 1336, its capital was the city of Vijayanagara, which at its height was after Beijing the second-largest city in the world with an estimated population of half a million people. It was overrun by the Deccan Sultanates in 1565, the start of a gradual decline of the empire that lead to its fall in 1646. Many Vijayanagara arms in Western collections today were found in the Tanjore armory, the contents of which were sold by the British in the 1860s.1

One of the most characteristic weapons of the Vijayanagara are the push daggers or katara, after the Tamil kaţţāri, a weapon best known in the western world under the English romanization "katar". The Vijayanagara examples are believed to be the earliest forms of this characteristic Indian weapon. They typically have rather large blades and a shield-like guard incorporated into the handle.

On the Vijayanagara stone statues at Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam for example you mainly see this hooded katar in use as primary weapons either used with a shield, or wielded with one in each hand.

 

Srirangam statue with double hooded katar

A stone statue at the Vijayanagara period Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam.
Photo cortesy of Richard Mortel from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Wikimedia Commons.

 

These characteristic shields would soon disappear from katar as their role changed from primary melee weapon to an everyday carry dagger and backup weapon. Making them without shield is a concession on hand protection, but at the same time made them much easier to wear as part of one's attire and enabled a quicker draw.

Notes to introduction
1. See Elgood, Hindu arms and Ritual, Eburon Publishers, Delft.

 

This example

A good, large example of its kind. The very well-preserved blade still has very crisp ridges, something that really sets it apart from most survivors.

Vijayanagara katar

 

The blade is made of a very fine wootz, its patterns visible here and there.

Wootz steel on Vijayanagara katar

 

The classic hilt with large "sail" guard, terminating in a mythical monster head. Is has separate iron plates riveted to the top, covering the front, and sides, and a last one reinforces the top. Smaller, ornamental plates are also added that mimic stylized floral forms. The cusped arch echoes the Hindu architecture of the period.

 


'Facade on the W. Side of the Nayakar Durbar Hill' in Thanjavur (formerly Tanjore).
From the photograph album by Capt. Linnaeus Tripe, 
'Photographic Views in Tanjore and Trivady'.
South India, 1858.

 

The langets are beautifully shaped, with raised and sunken elements, cutouts in the shape of tulips, and three forward projecting elements that add to the blade's stiffness at the base. The foremost rivet was gone, so I replaced it with a copper one.

 

Langets

 

It came with an old green velvet-covered scabbard, which did a good job of protecting the blade because there is a market difference in condition between what is covered by the scabbard and what not.

 

In scabbard

 

Condition

Blade is in very good condition for one of these, with high, crisp ridges. The hilt has suffered a little more from age, with some patches of rust coming through the shield. Old scabbard  with some losses to velvet but still structurally sound. See photos.

 

Conclusion

A nice, large example of the mighty Vijayanagara katar. It has one of the best blades I've had on these, with precise ridges that stand up high from the surface. An impressive piece.

Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade
Vijayanagara hooded katar with very good blade

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